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SECTION 18
LOGISTICS TROOPS

The PLAAF's Logistics Department (houqin bu/konghou) was established in November 1949, and was based on the Fourth Field Army's 6th subdepartment. It is responsible for supply, as well as support for operations, training, and living. The PLAAF's logistics troops (houqin bing) are organized operationally to carry out the policies of the Logistics Department. Consequently, they are responsible to the HqAF Logistics Department and its subordinate offices at the MRAF, Air Corps, Command Post, and unit level. The Field Station (chang zhan) is the logistics organization at an aviation division/base. This section describes how various logistics units are organized today to perform their missions, and how the PLAAF's logistics elements performed during the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese border conflict. 

LOGISTICS TROOPS TODAY

AIR MATERIEL DEPOTS: Looking at how the PLAAF's logistics troops are organized today, the air materiel organization at each level manages supply depots and warehouses, and orders the supplies. Supply depots are organized on a three tier structure -first level (yiji) depots, which are located in various military regions but are subordinate to HqAF (The Lanzhou MRAF does not have any first level depots, but has second level depots at Xian, Wulumuqi, and the He-Xi corridor); second level (erji) depots are located in each military region and are subordinate to the MRAF Headquarters; and third level (sanji) depots are located at and subordinate to operational units. First level depots can either supply the second level depots or send items directly to the unit if necessary. The PLAAF's first level air materiel depots are directly subordinate to the Logistics Department Headquarters, but are functionally (yewu) responsible to the Plans Division within the Air Materiel Department.

 First level depots have a director, political commissar, two deputy directors, a General Office (bangongshi), Political Division (zhengzhi chu), and Administrative Division (yuanwu chu) (Figure 1). The depot is divided into six sub-depots, an oil preservation shop, and a combined service company. Each sub-depot has a director, the oil preservation shop has a shop director, and the combined service company has a director and political commissar. The depot employs about 230 people.

 

The main task for a first level depot is to ensure the supply of air materiel to aviation units in their area of responsibility. The missions include the following:

 - Store, inspect, and maintain materiel

 - Supply mission capable (MICAP) items needed urgently

 - Technical development, depot management, and depot safety

 FIELD STATION: At an aviation division/base, the field station is an independent logistics support unit under dual leadership of the Air Division and the MRAF Headquarters's Logistics Department's Air Materiel Division (hangcai chu). It is responsible for organizing and supplying material and equipment, and also to provide continuous combined service support for operations and training (See Section 13).

 ENGINEERING UNITS: There are several engineering units (gongcheng bing zongdui) that are closely associated with the construction department, but are directly subordinate to the Logistics Department. These units are equivalent to an army (jun) or division (shi) and have several subordinate Engineering Divisions (jianzhu gongcheng chu), Groups (dadui), and construction material compounds.

 From June-November 1950, the PLAAF selected seven Army engineering companies from throughout China and organized them into five Airfield Construction Engineering Groups (jichang xiujian gongcheng dadui). Each Group, consisting of 620 people, had one subordinate Engineering Company (gong bing lian) and two Airfield Engineering Companies (jichang gongcheng lian). On 4 January 1951, they were officially named the PLAAF 1 st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Engineering Groups. In May 1951, the 6th Engineering Group was formed in the Southwest Military Region. In 1962, the 7th zongdui was involved in construction projects in Chengdu, and the 2nd zongdui was involved there in 1973.

 Today, these engineering units are used for building PLAAF facilities, but also contract out for civilian projects, such as bridges, roads, buildings, and airfields. For example the 8th Engineering zongdui repaired/expanded airfields in Dandong, Dalian, Qiqihar, and in Xinjiang. It also built the new Shenyang Taoxian airfield from November 1986 to November 1988. Once this project was over, the zongdui was reduced from 9,000 to an Engineering Division (chu) with 300 personnel, and consequently had its status downgraded from that of an army to a regiment (tuan). This move was taken as part of the overall reduction of forces. Most of the remaining people have become civil service personnel.

 In.April 1988, the PLAAF formally established the main company for an Airport Construction Company (hangkong gang jianshe gongsi) in Beijing. Branch companies were also formed at each of the seven MRAF Headquarters -- Beijing, Shenyang, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Jinan, and Chengdu. The company's primary purpose is to use the PLAAF's engineering technical units to repair and build airports, underground projects, warehouses, POL depots, factories, barracks, etc. The company also has a 30 year history of building civilian airfields. This company apparently was established to absorb several units and functions that were civilianized. In addition, the company combined some functions of the HqAF's Logistics Department, as well as some repair and spare parts factories under the Aeronautical Engineering Department.

 CAR REPAIR FACILITIES: The Logistics Department has several foreign car repair facilities (jinkou qiche xiupei chang) throughout China, which the PLAAF uses to make money. Each level of the Air Force's logistics organization, from HqAF to the unit level, has it own facilities. For example, one repair facility in Wuhan that belongs to the Guangzhou MRAF Logistics Department invested 30,000 yuan in technical renovations. However, during the first eight months of 1990, the facility made 4.35 million yuan by repairing 1,269. imported vehicles. 

1979 SINO-VIETNAM BORDER CONFLICT

Following the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, the PLAAF was not prepared mentally or operationally for the 17 February to 16 March 1979 border conflict with Vietnam, which China called a "self-defense operation." Prior to the first day of the conflict, the PLAAF spent approximately 45 days preparing its units in the Guangxi Autonomous Region.

 The Guangzhou MRAF Headquarters established a Forward Command Post, which worked closely with the 7th Air Corps at Nanning as the unified authority for the PLAAF's participation in the conflict. The PLAAF identified as one of its first missions the need to educate the troops in Guangxi about the reasons for the upcoming operations, and the need to motivate them to work all out preparing for the influx of troops. Upon receiving the combat readiness alert, all of the troops in the region received intensive education by studying the Military Commission's and HqAF's orders and relevant newspaper articles. In addition, three simple principles were put forth -- everything is subordinate to war, resolutely carry out orders; and hard work comes first. 

One of the most important tasks during this period was to prepare the airfields in Guangxi for the influx of over 20,000 PLAAF aviation, SAM, and AAA troops. The Guangzhou MRAF's Logistics Department was responsible for organizing the housing, materiel, transportation, and fuel support for these troops and their equipment, as well as the helicopter rescue and transport support for wounded soldiers at the front line. The airfields also took this opportunity to build, repair, or acquire new equipment or facilities which they had not been able to attain previously. 

The Logistics Department's subordinate airfield and barracks organizations had two primary missions -- to support housing for those troops already stationed in Guangxi, and to prepare housing, food, water, and electricity for the incoming troops. For example, these organizations issued about 10,000 mobile beds, over 32,000 meters of water pipe, and 200 km of electric cable, built 43,000 square meters of bamboo sheds, and repaired over 23,000 square meters of old housing. 

Since the PLAAF's 7th Air Corps in Nanning did not have prior experience in managing supply support, it worked closely with the PLAAF's Forward Command Post, Air Divisions and Regiments, and field stations to provide the necessary materiel. For example, some troops brought their own materiel or had it transported directly to them from their home bases, while materiel from other outside areas was sent directly to airfields where troops were massed. The airfield's field station then managed the materiel based upon orders from the Forward Command Post's logistics organization. 

Because it was not possible to construct housing immediately after the troops arrived, transportation of the necessary material prior to the troops' arrival was a critical factor. For example, they. used boats and vehicles to transport mobile housing with the troops to Tianyang. During the conflict, the Nanning Wuxu field station dispatched over 16,500 vehicles and drove 820,000 km in order to provide support for portions of an aviation regiment and one independent air group. 

Based upon initial estimates of the amount of fuel required, the PLAAF's fuel supply was totally inadequate and several depots were almost empty. Therefore, during the preparation period, all of the airfields' fuel depots were filled completely. This included the depot at Tianyang, which relies on water transport for its fuel supply. Some of the airfields did not have rail spurs, so vehicles had to bring in all the fuel. In addition, all of the combat readiness tanks available throughout the military region and some from outside the military region were quickly transferred to the front line airfields. These expanded the amount of aviation kerosene by over 50 percent. By the time the conflict began, the amount of fuel supplied to all the Guangxi airfields was 4.3 Times the normal amount. 

Supplying fuel during peacetime was difficult, but even more difficult during wartime. Furthermore, because some airfields, such as Ningming, are close to the border, their fuel storage is only partially underground, and the rail line supplying the bases are busy, the enemy could destroy or disrupt fuel supplies. Because of this situation, the PLAAF used about 45 days to build over 50 kilometers of semi-permanent fuel pipes to three different airfields. 

During the conflict, there was no air war, so the PLAAF restricted its missions to fighter reconnaissance and early warning missions along the border, helicopter rescue missions to pickup wounded soldiers, and air transport missions. In addition, the PLAAF did not use any ground attack aircraft or bombers. As a result, only about one-fourth of the fuel estimated for combat was used, and the difficulties. with fuel were fewer than expected. However, several urgent problems were revealed: 

-The fuel depot capacity at PLAAF airfields was too little. There was no way to support several types of aircraft or the sustained combat use of fuel for several batches of aircraft. 

-The structure and system of the fuel organizations were inadequate to support the fuel needs.

 -The refueling equipment was backwards and incompatible.

 -The General Logistics Department and Ministry of Railways needed to build a railroad fuel container car cleaning station between Quanzhou and Liuzhou. 

During preparations for the conflict,.the 7th Air Corps Logistics Department's Health Division established a helicopter medical rescue plan. After receiving approval from the Guangzhou MRAF Forward Command Post, an Air Transport Rescue Group (kongyun jiuhu zu) was organized under the unified leadership of the 7th Air Corps. This team consisted of medical teams from the Wuxu, Ningming, and Tianyang field stations, of Army field hospitals, and of the 19th AAA Division's Health Office.

 An Air Transport Command Group (kongyun zhihui zu) was established to dispatch helicopters and vehicles, and to organize front line field hospital concentration points for the wounded, and timely reception at the rear hospital helicopter landing pads. The command group consisted of cadres from the administrative, air traffic control, and health offices. Wuxu, Ningming, and Tianyang were allocated nine Zhi-5s and two MI-8s. Each Zhi-5 has six stretchers and blankets, and each MI-8 has five stretchers and blankets. With modifications, the Zhi-5 could carry 10 stretchers and the MI-8 could carry twelve.

 The mission for the helicopters was to transport wounded soldiers to Nanning City's Army hospital from field hospitals along the border between Guangxi's Dongxing Xian and Napo Xian. Since the nearest point was 110 km and the farthest was 280 km, each helicopter trip took 2-4 hours. During most sorties, the helicopters could not turn off their engines or refuel at the pickup points. Altogether, the helicopters picked up 549 wounded soldiers from front line field hospitals and transferred them to the rear.



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